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Bayer Looks to Lion Again in $25M Deal to Link Bio, Cheminformatics; Tripos to Help

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Building on the existing $100 million, five-year bioinformatics deal that Bayer and Lion Bioscience entered into last year, the two companies, along with Tripos of St. Louis, have penned a $25 million agreement to integrate bioinformatics and cheminformatics at the German life sciences company.

The companies expect the technology platform to speed Bayer’s drug discovery and agricultural chemical research.

Bayer officials were unavailable for immediate comment.

Andrea Kreisselmeier, Lion’s director of marketing and communications, said that the goal of the project is to link software from Lion and Tripos to assist in target identification and validation.

The $25 million will be paid to the Heidelberg, Germany-based Lion, which will share the money with Tripos based on how much work each company does. “But Lion is the project leader of the whole integration project and Lion has the contract with Bayer,” said Kreisselmeier.

The agreement includes an up-front payment, a licensing fee for cheminformatics technology, research and development funding, and milestone payments between now and March 2003.

Bayer, because of its various collaborations, now has a large number of targets in its pipeline, said Kreisselmeier. Lion has delivered targets verified with in silico methods, Millennium Pharmaceuticals has provided them from its wet labs, and Exelixis has supplied some as well.

Under the earlier alliance with Bayer, Lion is using its informatics systems for high-throughput identification and validation of 500 new drug targets, 70 new annotations on gene targets owned by Bayer, and an undisclosed number of gene expression markers and single-nucleotide polymorphisms. So far, Lion has delivered more than 140 protein targets, and Bayer has moved 72 of these targets into further biological and chemical evaluation.

“Now they really have to move these targets on in their development pipeline and find the matching leads,” said Kreisselmeier. “They have the high-throughput methods but what they really want to do is put the whole R&D process on a more rational basis and make this more efficient.”

Lion and Tripos are integrating Tripos’ MetaLayer cheminformatics portal and application with Lion’s SRS data integration system, which was deployed at Bayer as part of the 1999 partnership. The two vendors will also provide Bayer with a project tracking and knowledge management system to help with leads development, added Kreisselmeier.

The combined informatics system is expected to enhance Bayer’s high-throughput screening, experiment planning, and data analysis and to make discovery cycles shorter and more efficient.

According to Kreisselmeier, life sciences companies need to be able to link their disparate systems for biological, chemical, and other data so that data can be shared between different disciplines. But current software systems don’t enable this sharing to happen.

“This is really what the customer needs but nobody has done this before because it’s such a complex field,” she said.

Lion Alliance

Lion has been working with Tripos on the development of this link since 1998. In February this year, the two companies began work on a project to provide an integrated informatics platform for the life sciences industry. And this Bayer contract is the first that Lion has with a life science company to perform this specific integration, said Kreisselmeier. Lion and Tripos have agreed to bring in the other when one gets an opportunity along these lines.

John McAlister, president and CEO of Tripos, said, “We hope this will start a larger trend of the whole industry to integrate cheminformatics and bioinformatics, and we really believe there’s an opportunity to do so.”

Tripos’ technology provides three-dimensional molecular modeling capabilities, which will allow researchers to explore structure-activity relationships in molecules, and use the shape of molecules to zero in on complementary-shaped compounds that might be active on the molecules, McAlister said.

“It allows us to examine targets that Lion would produce along with functional homologs to these proteins, then based on the functional homologs, identify the likely ligand that would bind to the proteins, and use the ligands to develop a chemical library for the target,” said McAlister.

Additionally, Tripos’ data analysis methods allow researchers to record patterns in the screening process, then use all of the data to build new models for lead structures.

—Marian Moser Jones and Matthew Dougherty

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